‘Nasty Women’ by 404 Ink

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Nasty Women, ‘a collection of essays and accounts on what is is to be a woman in the 21st century’, was probably my most anticipated read of the year so far. Following its journey from the beginning, through its Kickstarter glory, to it landing on my doormat I was excited to read the essays that promised to be unapologetically loud in their feminism.

I was not disappointed.

A truly intersetional feminist collection that covers issues with birth control, experiences with gendered violence, classism, racism, xenophobia and beyond, giving you insight on the many realities of women living in the 21st century.

I told myself I was going to read it slowly, maybe a couple of essays a day. It started as I planned, I read a couple of essays then put it down (for an hour or so) then I read a couple more, and more, and more. I devoured every essay, every word. I felt enraged, empowered, horrified, and ready to shout back at those who seek to oppress.

In short, you NEED to read this book.

Some highlights… (there are so many to choose from)

  • ‘Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception’ by Jen McGregor

“What I did mind was the moment when one nurse asked me ‘is your husband happy for you to have this procedure?’ Er, what? I remember thinking. It’s 2014, I’m an adult, my husband doesn’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body.”

  • ‘Go Home’ by Sim Bajwa

“[…] it’s in the moment where a politician stokes anti- immigration sentiments and large groups of people respond positively. […] The moment that I realised my Prime Minister will smile and walk hand in hand with Trump before condemning his actions as racist, fascist, and inhumane.”

  • ‘On Naming’ by Nadine Aisha Jassat

“[…] in those instances – when my name is called into question – I need to know that the community within which I work and thrive has my back. But, as Warsan Shire points out, that is hard to do when many of them mispronounce my name.”

  • ‘The Difficulty in Being Good’ by Zeba Talkhani

“The thing about shouting racial slurs from a moving car is that you know exactly what the intentions are. It’s to unhinge you, to bully you and to make you feel bad about yourself. But when racism comes wrapped in ‘good intentions’ it’s difficult to pinpoint.”

  • ‘The Dark Girl’s Enlightenment’ by Joelle A. Owusu

“‘You’re so pretty… you know… for a Black girl.’ – used by boys of all races, but also as a reminder that I should be grateful for their compliments, ’cause… you know, I’m a Black girl, who needs to know that she is at the bottom of the pretty pyramid – bottom rung of the Ladder of Likability.”

 

 

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An Overwhelmed Publishing Student at LBF

I was told before heading down to London Book Fair that it is an overwhelming and tiring week and I was to be prepared for sore feet and a heavy bag by the end of it. Yet, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how exhausting it really is and how much of a struggle it would be trying to cram eight uncorrected proofs into my luggage for the journey home.

On Tuesday morning I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (after caffeine) and ready to take on the Fair. Halfway through that day I was overwhelmed, tired, slightly terrified, and spiralling into a ball of post-graduate stress. Now, that is not to say I did not enjoy myself, I did, but it would be a lie to say that I did not feel all those things on top of my enjoyment of the Fair.

London Book Fair is an overwhelming experience, especially for someone just starting out in the industry. There are countless things to see and do. You are rushing from seminar to seminar trying to cram in all the knowledge and advice there is to offer, all the while trying to build up the courage to network with people who are – 90% of the time – extremely busy and are there to work.

There were 131 countries represented at the Fair, there to cover a wide range of topics across a vast amount of sectors. The seminars were largely fantastic, with so much to choose from, managing your time and knowing where you were going in advance was necessary. Weaving through the crowds of LBF while rushing to the next seminar is a skill I might just put on my CV.

LBF17 was a great experience, I left with new knowledge, insights, and books (and perhaps a few new grey hairs). I genuinely cannot wait to do it all again next year – hopefully with a job.

(Side note: I also managed to get a look at the new Hogwarts House covers celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. They are beautiful and I cannot wait for my pre-ordered Hufflepuff ones to arrive.)

My seminar highlights from LBF17:

  • Day One: Introducing New Voices of Colour in Children’s and Teen Literature.

Megaphone, a writer development scheme, held a panel showcasing their writers and the books that those writers are working on. Highlighting the need for diversity in publishing by focusing on children’s and teen literature, Megaphone are attempting to create meaningful diversity in children’s publishing by helping diverse writers get the support they need in a heavily non-diverse industry.

Children need to see themselves in books. For years there has been a lack of diversity in children’s books and the industry needs to do more in the way of actually addressing this issue, rather than occasionally saying ‘we need more diversity’ and then not doing much about it. Megaphone is doing its part in making the industry and the children’s sector more diverse for young readers who desperately need to see themselves in books.

  • Day Two: Breaking Ground: Celebrating British Writers of Colour.

Breaking Ground is a publication from Speaking Volumes that highlights 200 contemporary British writers of colour who you very well may not have heard about. The Breaking Ground project is funded by the arts council and describes itself as an ongoing project that works to highlight the diversity that exists within writers of colour. There is diversity in their writing and the stories they tell and the project is trying to find ways to get lesser known writers of colour to the forefront of people’s attention.

In an industry with a diversity problem projects like Breaking Ground are important. They highlight the talent that is out there, some of which are still waiting to be recognised (40 on the list are unpublished), and the gatekeepers who are essentially stifling their voices. Change can only happen if the gatekeepers change, or the gatekeepers perceptions change and projects like this one aim to help those changes along.

  • Day Three: What’s the Problem with Translated Children’s Books?

This panel began by telling us that they had decided to shift its focus from looking at the problems faced in the world of translated children’s books to looking for solutions to those problems. They were looking at ways in which they could celebrate the books that have already been translated and hoping that by highlighting those works they could show the industry that translations in children’s literature are essential. (Riveting Reads, a publication from the School Library Association, has a guide of 150 translated children’s books that already exist.)

The panel expressed, passionately, that there is great value in translated books in the educational environment. Children absorb stereotypes from the books that surround them, without translated children’s books we cannot fully help them become world citizens with a rich understanding of other people’s cultures.

‘Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays’ by Rebecca Solnit

I first heard about this book when a friend of mine mentioned it in one of her presentations at university. I immediately scribbled down its name promising myself to buy it at some point in the future when the work load wasn’t so massive and my bank account didn’t look too miserable. I eventually got around to buying it a week or so ago and I have devoured every word it has to offer. This is not a difficult task since the book 130 pages long and Solnit’s writing pulls you in from the start.

Comprised of seven essays, Solnit explores issues from mansplaining, marriage equality, rape culture, obliteration, violence against women, power, and everything in between. As Caroline Criado-Perez on the back of the book notes “Solnit’s book does what the best feminist writing does: it makes me angry. And it makes me believe we can, and we must, fight for change.”

It did just that; it made me angry, it made me want to shout back and fight for change. Solnit has a wonderful way with words that inspires you to take action, to not give up hope, to be angry, yes, but to use that anger to fuel a revolution against misogyny. Like most feminist writing I did have to take a few breaks as the subject matter is often harrowing and (as previously mentioned) anger inducing, but each time I was quickly drawn back into it.

I would highly recommend these essays, go read them, join me in my anger (and my hope that we can win this fight against the patriarchy and misogyny).

4/5

Some quotes worth noting:.

“Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law. The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.”

“Billions of women must be out there on this seven-billion-person planet being told that they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever.”

“Rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. Rape culture affects every woman. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape.”

Running on Caffeine

December has arrived and semester one of my masters is coming to a close. There’s a mix of excitement and exhaustion in the air. The Christmas spirit is becoming infectious, but there are still a few deadlines looming before we can fully relax and be merry. 

Life as a publishing student has been filled with many emotions: joy, anxiety, and everything in between. Mostly, for the last few months I have been running on caffeine as early mornings are still proving difficult for this perpetual student and night owl. 

This semester I have learnt that publishing is truely the industry for me. Working in this book filled world is becoming less and less a distant dream as I edge ever closer to the reality of it all.  I’m ending the year and the first semester of my masters with the comforting knowledge that I have an internship waiting for me in May and the possibility of a couple more. 

Christmas will be a much needed break, but I know that semester two will be just as exciting and quite possibly just as stressful. There will certainly be a few more grey hairs by the time I graduate, but they will come with the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve chosen the right career path. 

As ever, positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes. 

‘Marina’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is, by far, my favourite author and I’ve slowly been making my way through his entire works since I found and fell in love with The Shadow of the Wind. I’ve been mesmerised by his writing ever since and have not been disappointed by any of his titles.

Marina is, as described by the cover, ‘a Gothic tale for all ages’. Zafón himself states that “of all the books that [he] has published ever since [he] picked up this odd business of the novelist trade back in prehistoric 1992, Marina remains one of [his] favourites.” This sentiment is entirely understandable.

Marina takes the reader on a Gothic journey with fifteen-year-old Oscar Dari and his new found friend Marina Blau (along with her father Germán, and Kafka the cat) full of mystery and intrigue. A ghost story at its finest – I do not recommend reading this before bed, nightmares are possible – there are moments I wished I had a cushion to hide behind in the hopes that the monsters wouldn’t find me.

I’d say that one of the most beautiful things about this book – there are many – is how the ghost story at the centre of the story, often steps aside to highlight what Marina really is: a wonderful and often heartbreaking story about love and friendship.

I’d highly recommend Marina, and everything else by Zafón, to everyone I meet. Marina was originally published in Spanish and has been translated beautifully into English by Lucia Graves (who has translated Zafón’s other works into English as well). If I didn’t know I would likely believe that it was originally published in English, as the translation is so wonderfully done. Zafón and Graves make a fantastic team and I’m so thankful that translations exist, otherwise my bookshelf would be a whole lot duller without Zafón’s stories.

Quotes worth noting:

“If people thought a quarter of what they speak, this world would be heaven.”

“Patience is the mother of all virtues and the godmother of madness.”

“Nothing in life can be understood until you understand death.”

“Marina once told me that we only remember what never really happened. It would take me a life time to understand what those words meant.”

“We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul.”

More by Carlos Ruiz Zafón:

The Shadow of the Wind

The Angel’s Game

The Prisoner of Heaven 

The Prince of Mist 

The Midnight Palace

The Watcher in the Shadows

Alice’s Adventures in Publishing

Hi!

My name is Alice, as in Wonderland, and I am a post-graduate publishing student at the University of Stirling.

My journey into publishing was a long one, now that I look back on it. After I left school (in 2008) I was sure I wanted to do art, but that changed about six months into a portfolio building course at Aberdeen College. Unsure of what I actually wanted to do I took a year off to work and hopefully figure things out.

I eventually settled on two years of social sciences at Adam Smith College in Kirkcaldy, mainly to get out of Aberdeen and give myself some more time to figure things out. At this point I was pretty set on being an English teacher. However, when my friend pointed out that I don’t exactly have the patience needed to spend five days a week in a building full of teenagers, that idea whet out the window pretty quickly.

I knew I wanted to spend my life around books and I eventually settled on publishing as a career choice. In 2012 I went to the University of Aberdeen to study my undergraduate in English and History. Over the next four years I became even more committed to making my way into the publishing world.

I chose to do a masters mainly because I wasn’t really ready to stop being a student; I have been one for so long now it’s weird to think that it will all be over in less than a year. I also think it’s a brilliant way to learn about the industry that I want to spend the rest of my working life in.

Editorial is the dream, in either Trade or Academic publishing, but marketing seems like it would be interesting too.

So here I am, at 26, finally decided on what I want to do. I am incredibly happy with my choice and honestly don’t think I would have done it any other way. I’m excited to find out what the publishing life has in store for me.

So many publishing adventures await.